In the realm of software keyboards for smartphones and tablets, one name stands out, revered by users for its innovative features and exceptional usability. However, there’s a catch – you can’t have it.
Last year, Microsoft made headlines with its acquisition of Nuance, a deal valued at nearly $20 billion primarily for its cutting-edge voice-to-text tools. But there was more to Nuance than met the eye. It held the key to a beloved keyboard app, Swype, which unfortunately met its demise in 2018. Microsoft also happened to own another keyboard gem, Swiftkey, which it continues to offer to users.
Both Swype and Swiftkey had won hearts and accolades. Swype was hailed as “The world’s fastest text entry system,” while Swiftkey’s predictive engine was so remarkable that it was often described as a “psychic keyboard” for its uncanny ability to anticipate and suggest words effortlessly.
Swiftkey’s forte has always been its text prediction engine, considered the best in the business. However, it was not initially built for swiping gestures, a feature that was later introduced in version 4. While Swiftkey handles swiping quite competently, there are nuances in which Swype still outshines it.
One intriguing fact is that despite being discontinued in 2018 and reportedly intended solely for OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers), Swype can still be found lingering in the depths of the Play Store.
Many users, including this correspondent, obtained Swype shortly after acquiring their first Android device, and remarkably, the app continues to make a magical appearance on every new Android device connected to that account. Even version 3.2.4 of Swype still functions flawlessly on Android 10.
Swype’s implementation offers a plethora of exceptional features that remain unrivaled by any single keyboard app to date. For instance, swiping one’s fingertip off the top of the keyboard and then back on automatically capitalizes the last entered letter. Drawing a small loop over a letter informs the prediction engine of your intent for a double letter, distinguishing between words like “hop” and “hoop” or “bet” and “beet.”
Another brilliant feature involves swiping over the period, signaling to the keyboard your desire for an apostrophe at that specific point. This proves particularly useful in English, a language that employs apostrophes extensively, differentiating words like “its” (possessive) from “it’s” (contraction), or “won’t” from “won’t.” Swiping from the period suffixes that you type onto the current word, be it ‘s, ‘nt, ‘ve, or other common endings.
In cases where the keyboard incorrectly predicts a word – a common occurrence on any smartphone – a simple tap on the delete key, as long as you haven’t entered a space yet, erases the entire last word, providing a quick and efficient correction method.
Swype offers a range of additional screens, although sadly, most of them never made it over to the iOS version. One standout feature is a dedicated phone number entry keypad, separate from the numbers-and-symbols screen. While Google’s keyboard can also perform this function, Swype’s implementation is more intuitive and accessible.
Another invaluable screen includes cursor keys, complete with cut/copy/paste options, text selection via cursor keys, a “select all” button, and a tab key. This proves immensely useful for precision editing and is both more functional and less intrusive than Swiftkey, which offers optional arrow keys added to the main keyboard’s lower section.
Swype’s commitment to user convenience doesn’t stop there. It allows users to select two languages simultaneously while retaining the ability to quickly switch to others via a long press on the spacebar. Additionally, it provides options for a smaller keyboard in one corner, ideal for users with shorter thumbs, and a split keyboard for those wielding tablets.
Swype’s design exhibits more consistency compared to some of its competitors. For instance, consider Swiftkey’s main screen alongside its symbols screen. While symbols are also displayed on the main alphabetical screen, about half of them are positioned differently on the symbols screen. This disrupts muscle memory, forcing users to either remember two sets of positions or hunt and peck every time they need a symbol.
So, here’s a humble request to Microsoft: Can we ask for a favor? We’re open to various options. You could consider making Swype available for purchase once again. Alternatively, you could integrate Swype’s exceptional features into Swiftkey. Better yet, merge the two apps, combining Swype’s gesture-based input with Swiftkey’s superior prediction engine. Please, take our money and bring back the best aspects of Swype. We’re ready and eager to embrace it once more.